Pages

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Let me through, I'm an Anglican...

If, like me, you are NOT a member of the Anglican / C of E clergy, a fairly stalwart church goer, even serving on various committees, then I expect you are pretty fed-up with most of what is going on in Anglican world. Part of the trouble is that it all seems so inward looking and therefore exactly opposite to how we are supposed to be as followers of Jesus, caring for the poor and challenging the status quo... I, along with many others, simply don't get what's happening!

Today I heard a friend recite the famous poem, 'The Vicar of Bray' which implies that fickleness has been around for a while amongst clergyfolk and I will return to that later.

I am now struggling to recall the innocence of my faith... at the moment so much of what has just transpired in the recent Synod seems to bear little relationship to real church. Additionally, the recent research which revealed the sermon is the 'best bit' of a church service even skirts the point that church services, generally, are very, very naff!

I know there are some churches that are exploring new ways of enhancing worship (Fresh Expressions being one such initiative) and I think that is brilliant, however, where the church is really part of (or becomes) the surrounding community that is what really encourages me to think all hope is not lost. Ok, there was a Synod presentation about Mission covering Fresh Expressions and there was Revd David Gamble's interesting 'offer' from the Methodists, which actually hid both a reproach and a challenge of priorities.

But whilst endless debates continue about all the current obsessions (whichever way you look) then us 'lay' folk lose more faith, both in the established church and the clergy. The trouble is the whole system is run by differing strata of... yet more clergy, ranging from humble deacons to Archbishops. That immediately means there are issues to deal with including:
  • Inequality: This is usually manifest in the clergy / non clergy divide.
  • Superiority: Why do C of E clergy give out the impression they are 'above' other ordained clergy/pastors in other denominations (except, maybe, Catholics priests?!!)?
And there is the theology! I am an avid reader and love listening to audiobooks. I have enjoyed many great talks at Greenbelt and at other 'thin places'. Those talks capture you within the first few minutes, frankly the 'sermon' style in most churches, regardless of Biblical content, simply does not challenge or inspire and is a mixture of platitudes and anecdotes.

At the risk of sounding old (rather than mature, of course!) I used to love going to conferences and gatherings where we listened to a proper preacher and sang our hearts out! I now learn the evangelical nature of those meetings is seriously frowned upon by Anglo-Catholics and Liberals... it seems faith has to be liberalised, have more doubt, more skepticism, no longer enjoyed, kept to one denomination and it seems we are not even allowed to describe ourselves as a 'Christian' anymore. Don't completely dis the evangelicals, though, they come in many shapes and sizes!

This leads me to my final point: why is the church so demonstrably partisan? It seems the C of E thinks it is different to 'free' churches and the mounting divide between those declaring Catholic 'tendencies' and steadfast C of E communicants is hardly new? The Vicar of Bray actually kept his post through a series of major varieties of governance, perhaps, after all, he was more of a servant to his flock than the humour in the poem implies as he 'cheerfully' reversed his principles?

I have never felt I was one denomination or another, despite worshipping in various denominations as geography dictated. I cannot understand why some folk filling forms with 'C of E' in the 'Religion' field? Surely we are simply Christians? So why does it feel as though I have to declare I am Anglican / C of E? Nope, that is never going to happen!!!

P

14 comments:

Lesley Fellows said...

Thanks for your challenge.

I wonder whether we are like this at the moment because we are in a crisis, a bit like when a couple are on the point of separating.. there is verbal abuse going on, anger, hurt.. We want to face outwards but our 'marriage' is falling apart?

As for sermons, sorry you don't feel inspired, I think I try my best, but Greenbelt is different to producing something every week.. I could take all my best bits and best thoughts and speak at Greenbelt, but I couldn't produce that every Sunday.

Why do you feel the clergy discount the laity? Sorry that it is so :(

BanksyBoy said...

Many thanks for responding!

Tackling sermons first I'm amazed we put up with them! There is a place for sermons, but in 95% of churches every Sunday they would be infinitely better if they followed Jesus' example of the Parable... leave a little bit to the imagination... ooops, sorry, I forgot, churches are very good at stifling imagination! I agree it is a tough call to produce a sermon every week, I just wish they weren't so proclamation and more partnership...

On the clergy front I count my local, Revd Sam, as a best mate along with other friends who have undergone the rite of ordination. However, it seems there is an attitude that is prevalent amongst most clergy that makes them seem spiritually aloof and unquestionable. When taking part in conferences and training days there is a great separation between the clergy types and the rest of us...

Sorry - hope that explains (a bit)?

Sam Norton said...

I think you need to have a fast from all things Anglican ;)

You prompted me to put these thoughts into 'writing': http://elizaphanian.blogspot.com/2010/02/church-plant-daydream.html

Sam Norton said...

PS - wanted to tell you in person but I'm away all day on Saturday March 6th....!!

Sally said...

"Superiority: Why do C of E clergy give out the impression they are 'above' other ordained clergy/pastors in other denominations (except, maybe, Catholics priests?!!)?"

Good question, I get sick of being treated as second class and somehow inferior. There is a tendency amongst clergy to be spiritually aloof and unquestionable, it is something I fight very hard against, we need to be more open and honest, to remember that we are all on a journey together, and to admit to doubts etc...

You say "When taking part in conferences and training days there is a great separation between the clergy types and the rest of us."- yes there is and there shouldn't be, and work is needed on both sides to address that problem.

But there is so much more to it than an Anglican malaise, you are right, we should be looking out and spotting signs of God's kingdom come in the world, I am about to blog about my experience of that this morning in a Primary School!

As for sermons, don't get me started, very few people can produce a good and inspiring monologue week after week, and we must become more creative and interactive.

Sally said...

spoken as a Christian first, a Methodist second, and a minister last :-)

Sam Norton said...

http://www.nakedpastor.com/archives/4735

cmjparsha said...

As a "preacher bloke" I get fed up with sermons, too! I much prefer dialogue. It seems, though, thast many preachers are 6-feet above contradiction; don't you dare question him / her! The Jewish way of teaching / learning is sitting together - arguiong if necessary. It's much more engaging and much more fruitful. Sometimes I wonder if I enjoy speaking at conferences because I have a bigger audience than at my home Church?

BanksyBoy said...

Cheers everyone!

Interesting post, Revd Sam, about the non-schismatic church plant... the fast sounds good and the Naked Pastor cartoon is brill ;-)

Oh Sally, I have heard very much the same from other Methodist (particularly?) ministers... well said. And your own post today is excellent! The sense of 'greater' things going on outside the church IS very exciting and uplifting.

Welcome, Adrian, and thanks for your contribution, spot on! I see there are some serious studies on your blog...

Sam Norton said...

BTW where did you get the pop-up blogger bar at the bottom from?

Chris H said...

Sam, it's a wibiya toolbar http://wibiya.com/

Steve Hayes said...

Concerning being inward-looking, I posted something on my blog about that a while back, at Notes from underground: Anglican introversion, and one of the comments was to the effect that the online image of a church is sometimes very different from what is actually happening with real people. Be that as it may, I still think G.K. Chesterton's comment applies: As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the image of earth will remain exactly the same. The modern young man will never change the world, for he will always change his mind.

Anonymous said...

The more I listen to the self interested ramblings of the Anglican hierarchy, the more I want to leave and become a nonconformist.

Bishops - damaging to faith, damaging to the country, irrelevant to God

BanksyBoy said...

Welcome Steve and good to have your comments... have followed your link and will be adding your blog to my roll... thought provoking stuff!

Thanks Anon, have to say the Bishops I have met so far have been ok, but the establishment is another matter!

Cheers guys.